ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Tickling in Lieu of Rent: Enforceable Deal?

The Associated Press is reporting on yet another interesting phenomenon that has cropped up since the advent of the internet: the online classified ad that offers a room in exchange for sex.   In cities throughout the U.S., Craigslist housing ads offer, for example, a room in exchange for ''sex and light office duty"; a one-bedroom pool house free ''to a girl that is skilled and willing"; a $700-a-month room at a discount to a fit female willing to provide sex.  Sounds like prostitution, right?  The article explains why the cops "aren't kicking down doors":

Paul J. Browne, a deputy police commissioner in New York, said investigators have found that the Craigslist ads are frequently ''little more than a form of voyeurism that didn't result in an actual exchange of sex for rent."

And, there are, after all, ads that are less overtly sexual: ''I usually rent the room for 600, but if you are really ticklish and willing to trade being tickled for the extra rent then we have a deal." 

But, do these ads lead to enforceable deals?  The overtly sexual arrangements, at least in the states where prostitution is illegal, are very likely void as against public policy.  But what about the less sexually overt arrangements?  What if the lessee doesn't allow the lessor to do the promised tickling?  Does the lessor have a valid contract claim to the "extra rent"?  I am sure stranger claims have been brought in housing or small claims court . . .

[Meredith R. Miller]

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